A late Roman sardonyx cameo portrait of the Emperor Constantine. Circa early 4th-Century A.D. Estimate: $150,000-250,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2009.
NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s will present two sales of ancient art, Antiquities and Ancient Jewelry, on December 11 featuring over 350 lots showcasing the broad range of works from Predynastic Egypt through to the Roman period. Highlights of the Antiquities sale include a stunning Roman marble torso of Venus, a Roman marble portrait head of the emperor Hadrian, and a wonderfully sophisticated Cycladic marble female figure. Ancient Jewelry is led by an extraordinary ensemble of 57 lots of gem stones from a private collection, an exquisite late Roman sardonyx cameo portrait of the Emperor Constantine, and a very unique and impressive pair of antique bracelets made of sixteen Roman ringstones.
The sale features the extensive selection from the collection of Mr. & Mrs. Charles W. Newhall, III and is led by a Roman marble torso of Venus, circa 2nd century A.D. (estimate: $300,000-500,000). This is a Roman version of the famous Aphrodite of Knidos. According to later Roman writers, the statue was originally commissioned by the citizens of Kos. Praxiteles, the Greek master sculptor, created two versions for them, one draped, the other nude. The prudish citizens of Kos rejected the nude version, which was then acquired by the citizens of Knidos. The statue’s fame became so great that numerous copies and variations were made during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The Knidia, as she is called today, is considered one of the most famous works of art from antiquity, and exemplifies feminine beauty.
A Roman marble torso of Venus, circa 2nd century A.D. Estimate: $300,000-500,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2009.
The goddess depicted nude, standing with her weight on her left leg, the right leg advanced, her torso bent slightly forward, causing a crease at the navel, her left arm originally lowered with the hand positioned over the pudendum, the right arm originally bent at the elbow, with the hand at the breast, the left arm adorned with an armband, with long wavy tendrils of hair falling onto each shoulder, the remains of a support on the side of the left thigh - 33½ in. (85 cm.) high.
Provenance: Swiss Private Collection, prior to 1992.
with Antiquarium, New York, 1992 (Myth and Majesty, Deities and Dignitaries of the Ancient World, no. 4).
Notes: One of the most famous works of art in antiquity was the cult statue of the goddess Aphrodite from her temple at Knidos, sculpted by the Greek master Praxiteles in circa 350 B.C. According to later Roman writers, the statue was originally commissioned by the citizens of Kos. Praxiteles sculpted two versions for them, one draped, the other nude. The prudish citizens of Kos rejected the nude version, which was then acquired by the citizens of Knidos. They erected the statue in an open-air temple, affording a splendid view of Praxiteles' masterpiece from all angles. It is thought that this was the first full-scale depiction of the female nude in all of Greek art. The statue's fame became so great that numerous copies and variations were made during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, from full-scale replicas in marble for temples and villas, to small bronze and terracotta statuary for household shrines, to depictions on engraved gems for personal adornment.
Although the original does not survive, enough is known about the Knidia (as she is called today) from the literary descriptions and these later copies that the type has been confidently identified. The goddess is shown standing, dropping her garment upon a vase, perhaps in preparation for her bath. Her left hand is positioned over her pudendum, her right hand over breasts, in a gesture that has traditionally been interpreted as the goddess' modesty. This is now recognized as a Victorian conceit, since there is no mythological basis to support such a view. The pose is now thought to depict the goddess emphasizing her fertility rather than hiding it (see Ridgway, Fourth-Century Styles in Greek Sculpture, p. 263).
The standing nude Aphrodite has been as popular in modern times as it was in antiquity. The most famous versions of the Knidia are the Capitoline Venus in Rome, found during the mid 17th century, the Venus de' Medici in Florence, documented already in 1638, and the Barberini/Jenkins Venus, known by 1738 and bought by William Weddell from Thomas Jenkins around 1765 for a then record price. All were on the list of obligatory ancient statues to be seen by European travelers on the Grand Tour in Italy. The present torso shares with the Knidia, and the later versions, the same exquisite modelling and posture. Like the Barberini/Jenkins Venus, she has been given decorative armbands and there are tendrils of hair falling onto each shoulder. For the Capitoline Venus, see no. 409 in Delivorrias, "Aphrodite," in LIMC; for the Venus de' Medici see no. 419 in Delivorrias, op. cit.; for the Barberini/Jenkins Venus, see Christie's, London, 13 June 2002, lot 112.
The Colmar Painter was a talented Athenian late archaic cup-painter whose career began towards the end of the 6th century B.C. and continued into the 480s. The sale includes a stunning example of his work, a red-figured Kylix, circa 490 B.C. (estimate: $250,000-350,000). Each side of the exterior shows a beautifully balanced pursuit scene: on one the winged North Wind Boreas is in pursuit of Oreithyia, the daughter of King Erectheus of Athens; on the other, Zeus gives chase to the nymph Aegina. Additional highlights from the Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Charles W. Newhall, III include an Egyptian bronze lion-headed goddess, Wadjet, Late Period to Ptolemaic Period, circa 4th-3rd century B.C. (estimate: $150,000-250,000); a finely sculpted Greek marble head of Aphrodite, Hellenistic Period, circa 1st century B.C. (estimate: $150,000-250,000); and a riveting Greek bronze winged helmet of Phrygian-Chalcidian type, late Classical Period, circa 4th century B.C. (estimate: $150,000-250,000).
An Attic red-figured Kylix attributed to the Colmar painter, circa 490 B.C. Estimate: $250,000-350,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2009.
The tondo with an ephebe tying a fillet around the head of a younger boy, perhaps representing the euandria, the ephebe with a crown of laurel in his hair, wearing a chlamys across his back and over his arms, leaning on a staff, soft shoes on his feet, the younger boy depicted nude, leaning forward, with fillets tied on his left arm and left thigh, holding wreaths in his hands, a voluted altar to the left with an ovolo molding, a sprig of laurel above, ho [p]ais [ka]los in the field, enclosed within a band of meander; the exterior with two pursuit scenes, one side with Boreas, the North Wind, pursuing Oreithyia, daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens, the god bearded, a fillet in his hair, his wings outspread, grabbing the right shoulder and elbow of Oreithyia, who moves right but looks back toward her pursuer, her long hair tied in a long ribbon headband, wearing a long chiton and a black himation, with two female attendants fleeing to the right and left, both wearing a chiton and himation, the figure to the left holding a black egg in her left hand, ho pais kalos and ho pais above; the other side with Zeus pursuing the nymph Aegina, the god bearded, a fillet in his hair, nude but for a chlamys over his shoulders, holding a palmette-topped scepter in his right hand, his left arm extended behind the nymph, Aegina moving right but looking back toward her pursuer, her long hair tied in a ribbon headband, wearing a long chiton and a black himation, an attribute in her right hand, with two female attendants fleeing to the right and left, both wearing a chiton and himation, their hair tied in a fillet, that to the left holding a pomegranate in her left hand, that to the right holding an egg in her right hand, ho pais kalos in the field, vine tendrils in the field, one behind Zeus, one to the left of the left-fleeing attendant, an ivy leaf below each handle, some details in added red and dilute glaze - 11 11/16 in. (29.6 cm.) diameter excluding handles.
Provenance: The Thétis Foundation; Sotheby's, London, 23 May 1991, lot 72.
Swiss Private Collection.
with Antiquarium, New York, 2005.
Literature: J.-L. Zimmermann, Collection de La Fondation Thétis, Geneva, 1987, p. 58, no. 107.
E. Kephalidou, Nikitis, Eikonographiki meleti tou archaiou ellinikou athlitismou, Thessaloniki, 1996, pl. 23.G47 (I).
I.G. Rizzo, Inquieti "commerci" tra uomini e dei, Rome, 2002, pl. 3.3 (A).
Beazley Archive Database no. 41586.
Exhibited: Geneva, Musée d'art et d'histoire, Collection de la Fondation Thétis, 1987.
Notes: According to Beazley (Attic Red-figure Vase-painters, p. 352), the Colmar Painter was a late Archaic cup-painter whose "developed style was formed under the influence of Onesimos (in both stages of that artist's career) and the Antiphon Painter. He probably sat side by side with them in the workshop of Euphronios."
The tondo of this very fine cup, a late work by the artist, probably shows a youth crowning a victor of the euandria, which was a tribal contest, limited to Athenian citizens, that was part of the Panathenaic Games. The euandria was a manly beauty contest in which the criteria were size and strength (see p. 94-96 in Kyle, "The Panathenaic Games: Sacred and Civic Athletics," in Neils, Goddess and Polis, The Panathenaic Festival in Ancient Athens).
According to Boardman (p. 224 in Athenian Red Figure Vases, the Archaic Period) Athenian artists were obsessed with pursuit scenes, including Zeus, Poseidon, or Theseus with various women, and Eos with young men. Following the destruction of the Persian fleet in a ferocious storm off the coast from Mount Athos in 492 B.C. and again at Artemisium in 480, the Athenians honored Boreas, the North Wind, with a temple. It is possible that this provoked new interest in the subject on vases, where he is shown in pursuit of Oreithyia, the daughter of the Athenian king Erechtheus.
An Egyptian bronze lion-headed goddess, Wadjet, Late Period to Ptolemaic Period, circa 4th-3rd century B.C. Estimate: $150,000-250,000.
The goddess enthroned, her feet resting on a cushion, wearing a tightly-fitted ankle-length sheath, her arms both bent at the elbows and held at her sides, her hands fisted around now-missing attributes, the left hand with the palm in, perhaps originally holding an ankh, the right hand with the palm down, perhaps originally holding a papyrus scepter, wearing a plaited tripartite wig, a uraeus at her forehead, crowned with a cobra-modius supporting a double plume and a solar disk between elongated cow horns, her well modelled head with a finely incised mane, whiskers, and hairs along the top of the head and within the erect ears, her rounded breasts with the nipples indicated, the back of the throne incised with a falcon topped with a solar disk, its wings outstretched, lotus blossoms below, the sides with an incised feather pattern, an incised inscription around the cushion below her feet, reading: "Wadjet who gives life (to/for) Tasenhor(?)" - 15½ in. (39.4 cm.) high
Provenance: Monte Carlo Private Collection.
Marcel Ebnöther, Schaffhausen, Switzerland, 1970s.
Literature: M. Page-Gasser and A. Wiese, Égypte: Moments d'éternité, Mainz, 1997, no. 182, pp. 271-272.
Exhibited: Basel, Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, and Geneva, Musée Rath, 18 March 1997 - 11 January 1998.
Notes: Wadjet was the tutelary deity of Lower (northern) Egypt, the area of the Nile Delta. She was one of the "Two Ladies," the vulture goddess Nekhbet being the other. Every Pharaoh included in his long and complicated titulary a "Two Ladies" name. This was usually listed second in the order of his titles. Her name Wadjet means "the green one."
Wadjet is almost always shown as a cobra, but she was often combined with the lion-headed Sekhmet, the goddess of war and pestilence.
A Greek marble head of Aphrodite, Hellenistic Period, circa 1st century B.C. Estimate: $150,000-250,000.
Lifesized, her oval face with a rounded chin and slightly-parted full lips, the almond-shaped eyes with thick lids, drilled at their inner canthi, the thin modelled brows arching gracefully and merging with the bridge of her nose, her forehead peaked at the center, the luscious wavy hair center parted, the individual strands delineated, pulled behind her ears, bound in a fillet and tied in a now-missing chignon at the nape of her neck - 8½ (21.6 cm.) high
Provenance: Private Collection.
with Antiquarium, New York, 2005 (Myth and Majesty, Deities and Dignitaries of the Ancient World, 1992, no. 4; Women in Ancient Art, 1997, p. 14).
Notes: This head is a Hellenistic interpretation of the renowned Aphrodite of Knidos created by the 4th Century B.C. Greek sculptor Praxiteles. The earliest Greek large-scale depiction of the goddess in the nude, the Knidia has been thought to exemplify feminine beauty. Considered at the time the finest sculpture by one of the most gifted sculptors, the Aphrodite of Knidos has been revered and celebrated throughout history as a masterpiece. In the 2nd century A.D., the writer Lucian (Eikones 6) chooses the facial features of the Knidia when constructing an imaginary perfected female composite sculpture (p. 19 in Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age), "the hair and forehead and finely penciled eyebrows as Praxiteles made them, and in the melting gaze of the eyes with their bright and joyous expression..." For a complete example of the Knidia, now in the Vatican Museums, see figs. 24-25 in Bieber, op. cit.
A Greek bronze winged helmet of Phrygian-Chalcidian type, late Classical Period, circa 4th century B.C. Estimate: $150,000-250,000.
Formed of heavy sheet, the crown with a raised peak surmounted by a separately-made spiked crest, a palmette in relief at the back bordered by spiral tendrils, a tendril spiraling out to each side surmounted by lotus blossoms, the neck-guard with a separately-made protective edge with volutes at each end, plume holders in the form of coiled snakes on either side of the central crest, a relief plaque of an eagle in between, the visor with a peaked double-ridged border along the brow, centered by a partially-preserved relief plaque of a gorgoneion, the separately-made wings finely incised and riveted to the sides above the cheek-pieces, the left cheek-piece with a standing winged Nike in profile wearing a belted peplos, the right cheek-piece with Artemis wearing a knee-length peplos - 16¼ in. (41.3 cm.) high
Provenance: Cologne Art Market, 1989.
Axel Guttmann Collection of Ancient Arms and Armour, Part 2; Christie's, London, 28 April 2004, lot 96.
In addition to his impressive ancient art collection, Newhall also collected books to reflect and complement his growing interest of antiquities. Leading the collection is a very rare hand-colored first edition of Dubois Maisononneuve’s Introduction à l’étude des Vases Antiques…, Paris, 1817 (estimate: $25,000-35,000) and masterful etchings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Le Antichità Romane, Rome, 1756 (estimate; $20,000-30,000).
The sale also features a Roman marble portrait head of the emperor Hadrian, reign circa 117-138 A.D. (estimate: $300,000-500,000), a lifesized depiction of the powerful ruler sculpted with his characteristic thick, wavy hair and a closely-cropped beard; a Greek marble girl, circa late 4th century B.C. (estimate: $400,000-600,000), representing Persephone, the Goddess of the Dead; and a Cycladic marble female figure of the Kapsala variety, circa 2700-2600 B.C. (estimate: $70,000-90,000).
A Roman marble portrait head of the emperor Hadrian, reign circa 117-138 A.D. Estimate: $300,000-500,000.
Lifesized, finely sculpted with his characteristic thick wavy hair combed forward in undulating rows, the locks detailed by incision and drillwork, with a closely-cropped beard, the mustache with a gap at the philtrum, his thin lips pressed together, the eyes unarticulated beneath heavy brows, with slight creases extending from their outer corners - 11 in. (27.9 cm.) high
Provenance: Mr. X., Paris, acquired in the early 1970s.
Collection d'un Amateur, Succession de M. X, Objets d'Art et de Bel Ameublement; Piasa, Paris, 28 March 2008, lot 162.
Notes: Even though the Emperor Hadrian came to power at the age of 41 and ruled for twenty-one years, most of his portraits show him as a never-aging adult, his skin smooth and wrinkle free (see Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, p. 238). However, the large number of surviving portraits (second only to the Emperor Augustus) display an infinite variety, and some, in fact, as with the present example, show him with a somewhat fleshy face, complete with a creased forehead and slight folds at the outer corners of the eyes. See for example the bust from the villa of Herodes Atticus at Luku, discovered in 1995, fig. 171 in Opper, Hadrian, Empire and Conflict.
A Greek marble girl, circa late 4th century B.C. Estimate: $400,000-600,000.
Depicted in her youth, wearing a long short-sleeved high-belted chiton with overfold, a band over her shoulders crossing her chest and upper back, cinching the fabric along her back, the chiton falling in deep vertical folds below, standing with her left leg slightly advanced, her arms bent acutely, the hands once meeting at the center of her chest, a snake bracelet coiled around each forearm, the separately-made head and neck inserted into the bust, her round youthful face with large almond-shaped lidded eyes, her small mouth with the fleshy lips slightly parted, her hair arranged in an elaborate coiffure consisting of five rows of deeply-drilled individual tight curls framing her face, brushed forward at the front, and encircled by a groove perhaps for a now-missing fillet - 33½ in. (85.1 cm.) high
Provenance: Sarkis Collection, Switzerland.
Ishiguru Collection, Japan, mid 1960s.
with Galerie Archaïque, Japan, 1985.
Notes: Distinctive half-length female busts were a sculptural form unique to the Greek colony of Cyrenaica. The type is funerary in nature, and represents Persephone, the Goddess of the Dead, or other chthonic deities, rising up from the ground. The lower extremities were not sculpted, as they were conceived as being still below ground. For a full discussion of the type see p. 439 in Beschi, "Sculpture in Greek Cyrenaica" in Caratelli, ed., The Western Greeks, and no. 416, op. cit..
A Cycladic marble female figure of the Kapsala variety, circa 2700-2600 B.C. Estimate: $70,000-90,000.
Sculpted with a lyre-shaped head, a slender nose, and an elongated neck, the shoulders horizontal and angular, the arms folded right below left beneath the small, rounded breasts, the thighs off set from the flat stomach by a slight bulge, the legs divided by a deep cleft, the feet angled down and slightly concave on their undersides, the back of the legs divided by a deep cleft which extends as a shallow groove to below the shoulders - 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm.) long
Provenance : Japanese Private Collection, 1960s-1970s.
Notes: For Kapsala-Variety figures see p. 152-159 in Getz-Preziosi, Early Cycladic Art in North American Collection, and p. 457-459 in Thimme, ed., Art and Culture of the Cyclades.
Christie's sale of Ancient Jewelry will offer over 150 lots of exquisite craftsmanship including ancient ring stones, beaded necklaces, earrings, buckles, and bracelets. The sale’s top lot is a late Roman sardonyx cameo portrait of the Emperor Constantine, circa early 4th century A.D. (estimate: $150,000-250,000). Finely carved in three layers, Constantine is represented with relatively realistic facial features and without a beard, becoming the first emperor since Trajan not to wear one. It was once in the Guilhou Collection in the 19th century.
A late Roman sardonyx cameo portrait of the Emperor Constantine. Circa early 4th-Century A.D. Estimate: $150,000-250,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd. 2009.
The oval stone in three layers, tan on white on brown, with a superbly sculpted bust of the Emperor in profile to the right, wearing a mantle draped over the shoulders, pinned by a circular brooch at the right shoulder, over a cuirass, the layered pteryges visible at the right shoulder, a laurel wreath in his short wavy hair, the ties hanging behind, with a creased forehead, a hooked nose and a rounded chin, the eyes unarticulated, enclosed within a laurel wreath; mounted as a pendant in a later European gold setting - Cameo: 1 15/16 in. (4.9 cm.) long; mount: 2 3/8 in. (6 cm.) long
Provenance: Guilhou Collection.
Collection of D.B and M.C.; Hôtel Drouot, 19-21 May 1910, lot 329.
Lehmann Collection; Hôtel Drouot, 11 June 1925, lot 83.
with Rollin and Feuardent, Paris.
Literature: R. Delbrueck, Spätantike Kaiserporträts, von Constantinus Magnus bis zum Ende des Westreichs, Berlin and Leipzig, 1933, p. 130, pl. 73,1.
Notes: Constantine the Great was proclaimed an Augustus by his troops in 306 A.D. Over his thirty-year reign, first as Tetrarch and then as sole emperor, Contantine oversaw great transition and brought about tremendous change to the fundamental tenets of Roman society. After his defeat of Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D., when he achieved sole reign of the Western Empire, Constantine employed classicizing motifs to establish his legitimacy as the heir to the empire of old. He shaved his beard, becoming the first emperor since Trajan not to wear one, portraying himself as "the archetypical Roman general of the distant imperial past, a new Augustus, a new Trajan" (Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph, p. 61).
The present cameo is a memento of this sentiment. Constantine the Great is here depicted wearing the triumphal laurel in the style of Augustus himself, establishing the emperor as a link to the grandeur of the early imperial period. For a cameo of Augustus in a similar style see no. A 9 in Megow, Kameen von Augustus bis Alexander Severus.
Imperial cameo carving reached its artistic apex during the Julio-Claudian period. They continued to be made through the Severan period, after which very few were produced until the art form was revived during the reign of Constantine. For a cameo depicting Constantine with his family, in the manner of Julio-Claudian dynastic portraiture, see p. 197 in Donati and Gentile, Constantino Il Grande.
The sale commences with an excellent selection of Minoan, Greek, Etruscan and Roman stamp seals and ring stones from a Swiss Private Collection. Dating from as far back as the 1700 BC, these delicate and pristine stones feature intricate designs and display a refined attention to detail. Portraits of men, insects, animals, and marine life decorate this exquisite selection of stones; estimates range from $1,000 to $5,000.
With the vivid turquoise and inventive design, a superbly-talented 19th century jeweler amassed a group of sixteen fine Roman intaglio ringstones, circa 1st century B.C.-4th century A.D., and set them into a pair of bracelets (estimate: $20,000-30,000). The gems are joined together by gold chains into a unique and versatile ensemble that can either be worn as a two separate bracelets or combined into a single choker. The ringstones include the gods Apollo, Minerva, Selene, Mercury, Venus and Bonus Eventus.
A pair of bracelets with sixteen Roman intaglio ringstones, circa 1st century B.C.-4th century A.D. Estimate: $20,000-30,000.
Mounted together in a 19th century gold setting, either to be worn as two bracelets or joined together as a single choker necklace, each stone framed by turquoise cabochons, one bracelet with a plasma engraved with a shepherd and two goats below a tree; a nicolo engraved with a profile helmeted head of Minerva; an eye agate engraved with a cornucopia; a plasma engraved with a profile draped male laureate bust, laurel in the field in front; a nicolo engraved with a cornucopia, a winged caduceus and a star; a plasma engraved with a partially draped Apollo seated before a tripod on a stand, a plant emerging from the vessel; a nicolo engraved with a standing Minerva wearing a peplos, armed with a helmet, shield and spear; and a nicolo engraved with a facing female head, perhaps of Selene, above a crescent; and one bracelet with a plasma engraved with an eagle on a branch; an agate cameo with three letters, MOV; a nicolo engraved with a satyr playing a flute; a plasma engraved with Mercury seated on a rock pile, nude but for a chlamys and a winged petasos, holding a money bag and a caduceus, a cock behind; a nicolo engraved with a military trophy; a plasma engraved with Bonus Eventus, a mantle over his shoulders, holding a bowl of offerings and sheafs of wheat, a bird in a tree behind; a nicolo engraved with a winged Eros riding a hippocamp; and a nicolo engraved with Venus Victrix, nude but for a mantle across her lower torso, holding a helmet and spear, leaning on a column - Largest stone: 7/16 in. (1.1 cm.) long. Each bracelet: 7¼ in. (18.4 cm.) long
Provenance: English Private collection.
with Wartski, London, prior to 2000.